Dancing on Ice

It’s on the telly as I write, and if ever there was a time for a relevant title this is it.

Electronic gremlins eating an alarm contributed to our late departure, but we were happy enough to be back out, it’s been a while.
The late morning arrival in Kinlochleven meant another breakfast visit to the Ice Factor, oh the hardship. The route was long and daylight was short, the roads had been deadly in places, black ice, but we had to try for Mamore Lodge to get a leg up to 1000ft for free.
Really bad idea in a borrowed motor with tyres as grippy a four inflatable swimming rings. We span out and started slipping back on the steepest stretch. Self inflicted misery it was, so action rather than tears, snotters or recriminations was in order. I couldn’t get out of the motor, using the handbrake changed the weight distribution and I slipped towards a ditch which would trap us there and damage (mother’s) motor every time I pulled the handle. Phil worked the ground with an ice axe, found boulders to bridge gaps and we got back on the “tarmac” eventually to make a very tentative retreat to safer ground.
I can count on one hand, and have fingers left over, the people I would want to be teamed with in a situation like that to ensure a happy ending, and Phil is of course one of them.

Nerves shredded, time wasted, energy sapped, we headed back uphill on foot to see what was left of the day. Ice overlayed with fresh powder in an alpine wonderland, and once off the track deep drifts pulled us down tearing at what strength and willpower we had left. We dug in for a rest stop and the stove went on. It was searingly cold but the soft afternoon light cast a warmth across the landscape that was at odds with my nipping fingers.

We climbed some more on some very steep snow, but lay short of the top in a gasping, inarticulate huddle. We were done. The descent was in a gathering sepia-tinted darkness, but there was a lightness to out steps, falls and stumbles to regain the track.
By headtorch we found the motor again, and the frictionless surface leading to it made me glad indeed that we hadn’t made the car park at Mamore Lodge. The road was found and we took our time back to Glen Coe, just in time to see the wreck of a vehicle being  straightened and pulled onto a recovery truck. We waited patiently, and when we finally pulled away as the policeman waved us on, the wheels spun instantly on the invisible black ice that coated the whole road.
The journey back was one of extreme concentration and wariness. I was glad to be home.

I’m claiming a victory of sorts though. It was good to be out with my china and catching up on banter, it’s just beautiful out there just now and it’s good to have some reminders in the pressure-instigating-risks area.

9 thoughts on “Dancing on Ice

  1. Sounds like another fine adventure!

    I really like the last photo. It just sucks you in and makes you feel the cold and the draw of ‘civilisation’. Some of the finest outdoor memories I have are of situations like that at the end of a long day. That’s me off dreaming for the rest of the day…

  2. More-On that night shot is from a granite memorial bench just off the track, a fine spot for a picnic on any other day!
    The lights of the stalkers house did look awfully inviting and Kinlochleven around the corner just looked warm.

    My motor is back on the road today Vorlich and I’m so glad to have my tyres back. My heart rate is now returning to normal.

    It’s worth pointing that on the way back around the time of that last photie we were plotting the best way to surprise the sentries at the guard post. Not quite ure what movie we were in right enough.

  3. Did you guys make the RFC in the end?

    I did wonder yesterday if you were going to try getting up to Mamore lodge! I managed fine with only a few heart stopping moments in my rusty old rear wheel drive BMW. It’s shite in the snow but at least it’s predictable and I still get further than most of the numpties out there.

  4. Driving to the hills is more dangerous than walking in them I reckon. Looked a nice cold fun time in the hills. Hope you are out soon and camping high.

  5. BBF, went straight by it and picked up dinner at the M&S in the garage at home. The microwave Indian meal for two just for me :o)

    Martin, the second shot of me and Phil standing looking folorn was when we were asking ourselves why we weren’t camped and getting dinner on.
    Camps coming soon I hope, it’s been really awkward to get out overnight of late. And I’m sitting here with 15 new tents and five new tarps as well!

  6. Pingback: First Hill Day in 2011 « Fat & SH1TE

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